Some clients we find at networking events, some find us via an old-fashioned Google search, and some get referred by existing clients. Then there’s the last category...
folks we’ve known personally for ages. If we’re being honest, this category can be tricky to work with. You know how it goes: expectations are high, everybody’s excited, ideas are flowing...then you find out somebody you’ve known for years secretly loves the Comic Sans font. The HUMANITY.
Luckily for us, we’ve avoided this snafu following a few simple tricks. So fresh off the heels of a successful project with a ‘childhood friend-turned client’ of our founder + creative director, we thought we’d share some of our tips.
Casual Is Fine. (but not when it comes to the paperwork)
Sure, skip the formalities of shaking hands at meetings and signing off emails with “many thanks”. We’re all friends here – bring on the bro hugs and “peace out!” email sign offs. But when it comes to laying out the scope of work with expected deliverables and costs, never - EVER - skip the formal paperwork.
Having a clear set of deliverables and associated costs will keep both parties from sliding off the rails during the project. A formal contract will help avoid some super awkward arguments when the project wraps and somebody thought they were getting sprinkles and cherries when they only agreed to pay for one scoop of vanilla.
Assume They Have Two Personalities
The Business version of your friend may be WAY different than the Friend version of your friend. You might find out that the super laid back friend is actually super high strung and makes people cry at work. You never know which of these personalities you’ll get when the friend becomes your client.
So ask a few questions about their work style - should there be regularly scheduled progress meetings or do they just want you to handle everything and show up when it’s finished? Do they prefer emails or phone calls? Do they have any HR violations you should be aware of? (just kidding...don’t ask that).
Tell Them It’s OK To Hate
As creatives, we’re used to constructive (and maybe sometimes destructive) criticisms on our work...it’s all part of the job. But your friend might not be used to that and may find it really hard to tell you they don’t like something. We’ve found it’s helpful to remind them at every meeting that they’re allowed to say they hate something...that nobody’s feelings get hurt.
It may be helpful to even give them pointers on what to look for and provide feedback on. For example, maybe they’re struggling to tell you why they don’t like something about a logo. Ask them to provide feedback on each component: the colors, the fonts, the icon and the lockup.
Swipe Left (if you have to)
We all have that one friend we love to death but deep down, you know they’re a total train wreck. If that’s the friend that’s knocking on your door for creative services, it might be better to just pass on the project. That conversation can get awkward quickly, so have some excuses lined up and ready:
your workload is so high you’re booked out for months
what they need is outside your core competency and they’ll get something better if they go with someone else
you have this weird rash and you can’t take on any work
You get the idea.